I spent a recent Saturday morning on the sidelines at the soccer fields during the Jefferson Cup tournament in Richmond, Virginia. I was distributing marketing materials for Soccer Parenting and found myself at the fields where the U-10 teams were playing because I ran into some friends at their children’s game. Soccer development is in full swing at this age.
I love watching kids this age play the game!
The game of soccer is starting to take shape as developmentally players this age are becoming aware of others on the field and, instead of reacting to the game, they are thinking and responding to the game. Soccer development is taking shape. You sometimes see overlapping runs, through balls, solid defensive shape and improved technical skills.
Something struck me, though, as I watched the games and listened to the parents. I became acutely aware of this fact:
This is a uniquely stressful time to be a soccer parent.
1. Skill acquisition leads to increased expectations.
With age and experience players are able to execute, with some proficiency, technical passing, receiving, and shooting skills. Along with this increase in ability to execute skills – comes higher expectations from parents.
Many parents are excited to see their child finally receive and pass the ball properly, and so therefore, this becomes their expectation: parents feel their child should be able to play well ALL the time. Soccer development is an ongoing process.
This age is a period of high levels of soccer development – and with that comes lots of mistakes, moments of near perfection and learning through trial and error.
There are ups and downs.
Parents, in their sheer excitement for their child when they are witness to an “up” AND because things seem SO easy to execute when you are the parent on the sideline – raise their expectations. This rise in expectations is often accompanied with a rise in stress.
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It’s this age – not so much when they are older – that sidelines are filled with comments such as:
Ugh, he should have passed it to him.”
“You can do better!”
2. Spatial Soccer Development Leads to Glimpses of Brilliance – Keyword: GLIMPSES
We need to remember that the game requires two decisions every second when a player has a ball. Kids this age are just not able to execute that type of decision making with consistency yet. They are trying, though.
There are glimpses of brilliance.
Moments when a child plays a perfectly weighted ball in behind, or times when a player receives a ball already knowing where they will play it, or when the player navigates away from pressure with their first touch.
Compound this with the fact that, at this young age and stage of soccer development, some kids are very logical and spatially aware and observant and are therefore keenly aware of where they are on the field and how and where they need to move.
Others are not yet there.
The imbalance demonstrated with this developmental awareness on the part of some players and not on others leads parents down the path of:
If that player can do that, than my child should also be able to do that.”
That is not always the case.
3. Will Your Child Be a Top Performer?
At this age group most clubs have two or more teams per age group. The plan is for these teams to merge in the next couple of years to one team or more as the teams progress to playing 11 vs. 11.
With that move to the 11 vs. 11, top performers will make the top team, and the lesser performers will make the second level team, etc.
Some parents are acutely aware of this future merger – and internalize their stress until game time or the ride home – and suddenly they are jumping up and down or muttering under their breath or sitting silently in their chair with their brain about to explode watching their child.
My morning at the fields ended with ME feeling stressed simply because of the vibe around me. As I stood on the sidelines of the U-10 games the stress level was palpable and the comments being yelled or mumbled, or said in distress to a spouse – physically affected my mentality. Soccer development is not supposed to be stressful!
Too much pressure put on kids at this important age can lead to burn out and frustration on the part of the kids. We need to remember that our kids want, more than anything, to make us happy. When they feel negative energy from us because of our stress after a game or practice –they get upset.
Kids want to avoid being upset.
We don’t want them to avoid playing sports.
We all understand the significant benefits to our kids playing sports. A healthy childhood will lead to a healthy adulthood. We need our children to continue to look forward to playing and we can’t affect their enjoyment with our stress.
We often are told that we need to tell our kids “I love watching you play” after a game. These words release them to the game and put them in a situation where they don’t feel obligated to make us happy by their performances.
Well – it’s time to live up to that statement.
Do you love watching your kids play? Or do you stress?